House Passes Bipartisan Bill Barring U.S. from Paying Iran for Nuclear Materials

The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill on Wednesday that would prohibit the United States from buying Iranian “heavy water,” which can be used to produce weaponizable nuclear material.

The “No 2H2O from Iran Act” passed 249-176 with both Republican and Democratic support. The U.S. government confirmed Monday that it paid Iran $8.6 million for 32 tons of heavy water in April. The U.S. made the purchase after Iran exceeded the cap on heavy water production allowed by the nuclear deal. This transaction allowed Iran to keep its heavy water stockpile up to the deal’s limits, as well as receive payment from the United States.

Some nuclear experts believe that “the U.S. move comes close to subsidizing Iran’s nuclear program in a bid to keep the agreement alive,” the Wall Street Journal wrote in April when the heavy water deal was first reported. “We shouldn’t be paying them [Iranians] for something they shouldn’t be producing in the first place,” argued David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a nonpartisan anti-proliferation think tank. Several nuclear experts said that because heavy water can be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium, Iran’s production of the material is still a proliferation concern, particularly since restrictions imposed on Iran’s nuclear program will be lifted after 10-15 years.

“The Obama administration’s deal with the Mullahs in Tehran to purchase heavy water demonstrates a disturbing, potentially illegal, willingness of the administration to subsidize Iran’s nuclear program,” Rep. Mike Pompeo (R – Kan.) said earlier this week. “This purchase allows the Iranians to offload previously unsellable product and it destigmatizes the act of doing business in Iran.”

The confirmation of the heavy water purchase comes shortly after the publication of federal and state-level German intelligence reports, which detail Iran’s increasing efforts to procure key nuclear materials in that country.

A report by the state of Baden-Württemberg revealed that Iran is trying to acquire components necessary to manufacture nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons from Western firms. “In addition to vacuum technology, there is special interest in machine tools, high-speed cameras, and climate test control chambers,” the state report said.

Germany’s federal intelligence agency, the BfV, warned that Iran is engaging in “illegal proliferation-sensitive procurement activities in Germany … at what is, even by international standards, a quantitatively high level.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told lawmakers Thursday that BfV’s intelligence shows that “Iran continued unabated to develop its rocket program in conflict with the relevant provisions of the UN Security Council.”

The Obama administration declined to comment on BfV’s report, telling the Washington Free Beacon “that it continues to view Iran as complying with the nuclear accord.”

[Photo: soccerdhg / flickr]